30th Anniversary of The Grateful Dead’s Spring ’90 Tour: Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario 3/21/90

Spring ’90 is synonymous with many things to many people, but in the Grateful Dead world, it was perhaps one of the most vital tours in the beloved band’s history: everything was clickin’. Over the next few weeks, Glide will be revisiting Grateful Dead’s Spring ’90 tour in honor of its 30th anniversary, with recaps and video highlights. For those stuck at home during these bizarre times, there’s no better time than now to go back 30 years and couch up this run…

March 21, 1990 – Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario:

The third stop on the Dead’s 1990 Spring Tour found the group in some relatively unfamiliar territory as they ventured north of the border into Canada for the first time in three years and only the third time since 1977. Interestingly enough, the band was veritable regulars in “The Great White North” during their earliest years, with twenty appearances – primarily in Vancouver & Toronto – between 1966-1970, including a 1967 six-night stand in Toronto as well as the infamous “Festival Express” tour from 1970 which featured the Dead along with a host of other legendary musicians pilgrimaging across the vast Canadian countryside via locomotive. Unfortunately for the multitude of Canuck Deadheads, the band would only return once more, in 1992, for another hot two-night stand at Copps in what would ultimately be their final shows outside the contiguous United States.

Musically speaking, these performances were absolutely worth the wait for our friendly neighbors to the north as the group continued their hot streak that originally ignited in Landover with two nights of pristinely-played high-energy shows, including a historic monster of a second set from the 22nd (but I’m getting ahead of myself here…).

While most of the focus of this two-night stand is on the aforementioned second show, the often-overlooked opening night is still oozing with highlights and standout moments of its own. Kicking things off is an all-time version of “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, which was later released on the live double-LP Without A Net with some slightly touched-up in-studio vocal overdubs. Next up was a particularly hot take on Noah Lewis’s “New MInglewood Blues” followed by an emotional reading of Brent Mydland’s “Far From Me.” The second “Loose Lucy” since 1974 preceded a strikingly well-played pair of Built to Last tunes, “Victim or the Crime” & “Standing on the Moon”, marking the final time the Garcia/Hunter ballad would be performed during the first set.

The second frame continues the trend of tight & dynamic musicianship along with an unorthodox setlist featuring an opening trifecta of “Hey Pocky Way”, “Crazy Fingers” and an energetic “Cumberland Blues.” The post-space sequence is highlighted by a heartfelt take on one of Garcia’s signature songs, “Wharf Rat” before Bob Weir brings the house down with a lively rendition of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn On Your Lovelight.”

“Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”: This Garcia/Hunter fan-favorite was introduced in 1972 and remained in regular rotation, often as a first or second set opener, with over 230 live performances through 1995. Recorded on 1973’s Wake of the Flood, this plucky number centers on a down-on-his-luck protagonist – a common theme throughout the canon of Robert Hunter’s lyrics – as is evidenced right from the start: “On the day that I was born, Daddy sat down and cried.” This version is arguably one of the – if not the – greatest ever performed by the Dead. Garcia’s vocals and playing are literally perfect throughout, as are the subtle complementary lines from Bobby & Brent that repeatedly appear with precision timing. This performance was ultimately selected by Phil Lesh to be included on the 1990 album Without A Net.

“Far From Me”: Recorded on the 1980 studio effort Go To Heaven, this Brent Mydland classic put-down song was ultimately the keyboardist’s most commonly played original composition, with 74 appearances prior to Brent’s death in 1990. Though pessimistic lines such as “This time’s the last time I want to say so long. This song’s my last song for you. There’s nothing here to hold onto.” may have turned off some Deadheads, the song still features a somewhat unique but catchy melody along with some sprightly leads from Garcia.

“He’s Gone”: Although this somber Garcia/Hunter gem was originally written about getting ripped off by one-time band manager and con-man Lenny Hart – who also happened to be drummer Mickey Hart’s father – it eventually came to memorialize other fallen artists and inspirational figures such as Bob Marley, Bill Graham and the Dead’s own Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. As Robert Hunter explained in a 1991 interview with Blair Jackson: “Later it became an anthem for Pigpen, and it’s changed through the years. These songs are amorphous that way. What I intend is not what a thing is in the end.” This version is an exceptionally sublime rendition with strong harmonies from the group’s vocalists along with an intricate solo from Garcia before it segues into a beautiful jam based around the song’s melody that eventually gives way to “Drums.”

“Cumberland Blues”: This Workingman’s Dead Appalachia-inspired ode to blue-collar America was originally debuted in 1969, and went on to be performed over 215 times, despite a seven-year hiatus between 1974-1981. This song is also responsible for one of Robert Hunter’s most cherished interactions with a fan: “The best compliment I ever had on a lyric was from an old guy who’d worked at the Cumberland mine. He said: ‘I wonder what the guy who wrote this song would’ve thought if he’d ever known something like the Grateful Dead was gonna do it.’” This version is typically upbeat and features some extended and highly melodic leads from Garcia.

Grateful Dead Setlist Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON, Canada, Spring Tour 1990

Previous Tour Revisits

3/14/90 – Landover, MD

3/15/90 – Landover, MD

3/16/90- Landover, MD

3/18/90- Hartford, CT

3/19/90 – Hartford, CT

Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide